22. May, 2017

Leaving Qatar By Katya Hvass

 

Leaving Qatar? A loss of employment and how to deal with it positively 

Many of us consider Qatar our home — even if only a temporary one — and we enjoy our time here. The reality of the situation is that under the laws of Qatar our ability to remain here is often directly and unwaveringly linked to our own or our spouse’s employment status.  

So, what exactly happens when our time in Qatar is up, and we are forced to consider leaving the country? I often have this subject on my mind, because the security my own husband’s employment has been in question several times during the course of the last two years, for various reasons. Many of them are beyond our control - such as company performance, corporate changes or restructuring, the relationship dynamics with managers and colleagues, but as we all know, these worries are common for many expats. 

If we are able to leave in a scheduled manner, looking forward to a new job in another country or a well-earned retirement, it may be all well and good; but what if the unexpected news just hits us like a ton of bricks, with little time to prepare for it?  

Seeing Through the Emotions 

Whether it is happening to you or to your partner, being “made redundant” or “fired” – however we might refer to it — is not a pleasant experience, and it inevitably provokes strong emotional reactions.  We come from different cultures and types of conditioning – with some of us more prone to self-deprecation and criticism that are not the best of advisors in a stressful situation.  

The truth is that sometimes things just happen. More often than not, a loss of a job is not a reflection of our professional skills, qualities or abilities. There are numerous forces at play here – including something as trivial as our boss waking up in a bad mood one day – and most of them are beyond our real understanding or control. It is best not to dwell on them, but to concentrate our energies in a positive direction and towards the future.  

Even if the dismissal was a result of a personal conflict or a critical judgement by your employer, try not to take it to heart — however challenging this might seem in the beginning. Instead, attempt to evaluate the feedback objectively, draw the conclusions that will be helpful to YOU in your own personal and professional growth, and move on. Just because we might have had a problem working for one organisation, does not mean that another company will not become a better mutual fit. Just like most things in life, other people’s opinions of us are relative, and it helps if we do not let them define us as individuals.  

On the bright side, once your employer gives you noticeyou are likely to get the elusive NOC and will be able to look for another job in Qatar — thus avoiding the disruption to your life caused by a move to another country.  

 

Talk to Your Employer 

Regardless of what the exact circumstances of the job termination were, and however disappointed or annoyed we might feel with the employer that let us down, it always helps to keep the channels of communication open. Work is work, but, fundamentally, we are all people, and we possess the innate ability to empathise with each other’s difficulties. 

If you are on a one-month notice, ask your company if they will consider postponing your end day by a month — or even a couple of weeks  to give you more time to look for work and put your affairs in order.  

At the very least, you can ask them to delay the cancellation of your RP for one month. This might be especially crucial if you have children of school age. Explain the situation to your employer and appeal to them for help in making your family’s transition as smooth as possible.  

Request the estimate of the final settlement from the employer straight away and study it in detail. It will include the end-of-service gratuity calculation – make sure it is correct. There are on-line tools available to help you calculate the correct amount based on the length of service.  

Re-read your employment contract carefully to see if there are any other end-of-contract benefits that you are entitled to, like demobilisation expenses. If you are not planning to leave Qatar straight away, ask the company if the cost of your return flights, relocation of your belongings, etc., can be paid to you in a monetary form. 

All employers are different, and it is important not to be disheartened by setbacks. Be polite and respectful, but do not take the initial “no’s” for an answer – ask “why not?” and present your case calmly and clearly. If the person you are speaking to is unable to make these decisions, ask them “who can?” and request a meeting with a higher-level manager or a HR representative. It is a good idea, also, to put all the requests and questions in writing, even if only in an email. 

Stay open and positive 

A sudden loss of a job can affect us deeply. Feelings of a perceived failure and rejection can be difficult to cope with. We may work on an understanding that our professional status does not define us, but the worry about financial security can become an overwhelming issue for anybody.  

In either case, try not to shut down or isolate yourself – talk to people, share, ask questions. What is happening to you has happened to many people before you and will happen many times again.  

The community in Qatar is amazing with personal connections and networking being such a big part of the culture here.Qatar expat women are always ready to lend a helping hand especailly new comers to Qatar. 

“When, Where & How in Doha” Facebook page is a great resource, where all sort of questions can be asked, but  if in doubt  make sure that you double-check the answers you receive from individuals, especially with regards to legal matters. 

 My husband and I have had first-hand experience of a job-loss situation, and I know for a fact that a positive and confident attitude works wonders — both in terms of the job search and for the simple emotional survival during a difficult transitional period.  

 Important Practical Matters 

Try not to panic, but there will be issues that you will have to deal with pretty urgently. As soon as you receive your notice, it will be a good idea to start making a list. Below are some of the things you will have to think about. A good employer should be able to guide you through them, but if they do not, carry on asking for support or seek advice from government agencies or lawyers. 

Life in Qatar might appear chaotic at times, but the authorities here have strict rules about legal issues and documentation. It is important to follow them, as the consequences of non-compliance can be severe and unpleasant. 

  1. RP Cancellation 

Make sure you fully understand the process and timescale for this, as it will be your responsibility to arrange for the RP cancellation for your dependants. 

  1. Property 

You will not be allowed to leave Qatar while still in possession of property that will remain here. In the case of a vehicle, for example, you will need to sell or — if you are unsure about your plans – the vehicle could be de-registered and registered again for transit. This can buy you some time until you know what you are doing. Alternatively, the ownership can be transferred to a trusted friend or a family member, who is in possession of a valid Qatari RP. Weigh your options carefully and seek guidance from the Qatar MOI (Ministry of Interior) Transport Services. 

  1. Banking and Unpaid Credits / Other Liabilities 

Talk to your bank and find out exactly what will happen when your RP is cancelled and the timeframe for it.  Deal with your banking straight away to avoid funds becoming inaccessible and temporarily frozen in a Qatari bank account. 

Credit can be a big issue for many people here — the loans appear very affordable when the salary is coming in monthly, but the repayments can become problematic once your employment is terminated. The situation can quickly become critical, as there are severe punishments for unpaid debts. You will not be allowed to leave the country until all your liabilities are settled.  

It can be worthwhile requesting NOC letters from your bank when closing your account, your landlord, and any other companies — such as car dealerships — who you have previously taken out loans with. Allow time for these companies to provide this letter — banks, for example, usually require at least a week’s notice.  

If faced with financial difficulties, it is best not to bury your head in the sand. Talk to your employer, your lender, and your family to try to find the best possible solution to the problem. 

  1. Your Children’s Education 

Arrange a meeting with your kids school to discuss your situation and to facilitate the smoothest possible educational transition for them. 

  1. Pets 

Start thinking about your pet’s future as early as possible. They are a part of our families and we are responsible for their wellbeing and welfare. They WILL NOT survive the heat of Qatar on their own. 

If moving to another country, start planning early and make sure you understand the import/ export process sufficiently, as there is strict timeframe — be aware that it will take time. It might appear daunting at first, but many people take their pets with them to other countries, and it is certainly possible and doable.  

All the vets in Qatar are able to provide advice, and there are several specialist pet relocation companies operational in Qatar. There is a cost associated with it, and it helps to get several quotes. Dr. Al-Tamimi Vet Clinic in Katara tend to have the most competitive rates.  

If the cost is too high for you, do not be embarrassed to fundraise externally – you are being a responsible pet owner and doing it for a very good reason. Friends and family will understand and many will be willing to make a donation – every little helps, and it all will soon add up. 

If, after a careful consideration, the relocation of our pet is out of the question, it is our responsibility to seek another solution — like finding a foster or an adoptive family. “Find Me a Forever Home” Facebook page is a good place to start. Again, keep communication open – talk to people; ask if someone is able to help.  

Interview the prospective adopters carefully to make sure they understand the responsibilities of owning a pet. Pedigree animals are at a high risk of being used for commercial breeding. Please ensure that you pet is neutered BEFORE the adoption to prevent this from happening.  

 

  1. Relocation of Belongings 

There are many relocation companies operating on Qatar and their rates vary significantly. Ask for personal recommendations and be sure to obtain at least three quotes from different movers. 

 

There will be many more issues to address and think about, but, once again, many people around you would have dealt with a similar situation or know somebody who has. Open personal communication is an important aspect of the culture in this part of the world, and many people are only glad to help, if they can. 

Whether it will be in Qatar or in another country, I wish you all the very best for the next chapter in your life. The situation might appear difficult at the moment, but remaining true to ourselves maintaining a proactive attitude, and having a positive frame of mind can help us to not only live through a difficult period of change, but enable us to grow and learn from the experience in a beneficial way.   

 

Disclaimer: The author does not have legal or financial training, and none of the above was meant as formal advice on these matters. If in doubt, always seek guidance from relevant authorities / professional bodies.  

 

With many thanks to Greig Parker for his help with editing the article. 

Wishing you all the best for the future 

Warm regards 

Katya Hvass